US shutters its 2 consulates in Russia

Temporary closure of 2 US consulates now permanent, leaving Moscow embassy sole US representation in Russia

A flag flies behind an enclosure on the territory of the U.S. embassy in Moscow – Photograph: Tatyana Makeyeva

Following cutbacks in services and temporary closures earlier this year, the US is closing its two consulates in Russia, leaving the Moscow embassy its sole diplomatic office in the country.

Announcing the closures Saturday, the US State Department said the decision was made to “optimize the work of the diplomatic mission,” but it comes amid tensions in US-Russian relations.

The consulate in Vladivostok was temporarily closed this March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the one in Yekaterinburg had been working in a limited mode.

Turkish-US ties have recently seen both tensions and controversies. In 2018, then-US President Barack Obama ordered the seizure of property of the Russian diplomatic mission in New York, and later Russia took retaliatory measure.

The two countries mutually expelled diplomats, and revoked the accreditation of several consulates on both sides.

After the fall 2016 polls, US intelligence agencies accused Russia of interfering in the presidential elections. US President Donald Trump rejected that conclusion and has been accused of being too close to Russia.

Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden takes office, may bring changes in bilateral ties. His inauguration comes in the wake of the breach of at least six US government departments in what US officials call a likely Russian operation.

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